One year on from Dieselgate: Has anything changed?

On the one-year anniversary of Volkswagen's corporate abasement (VW) for cheating emissions tests, a damning report has revealed that the German carmaker is in fact selling the least-polluting diesel models among all major manufacturers.

All of the largest car manufacturers currently exceed pollution limits for diesel models, but these brands are increasingly embracing EVs as part of a low-carbon transition

All of the largest car manufacturers currently exceed pollution limits for diesel models, but these brands are increasingly embracing EVs as part of a low-carbon transition

But VW's diesel cars still pollute twice as much as the Euro 6 standard - which applies to all models sold from 1 January 2015 - for exhaust emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other pollutants, according to the new study from campaign group Transport and Environment (T&E), released today (19 September). 

T&E analysed the data of around 230 diesel car models and discovered that all of the largest brands currently exceed NOx limits. The two worst offenders - Renault-Nissan and Fiat & Suzuki - are, on average, emitting 14 and 15 times the Euro 6 limit with their diesel models, the researchers found.

Because of the difference between lab-tested and real-world conditions, these new models are technically not breaking the law and the manufacturers insist they comply with all current emissions regulations.

Image: Not one brand complies with the Euro 6 pollution limits, according to the analysis.

T&E's clean vehicles director Greg Archer said: “One year after the US caught Volkswagen cheating, all carmakers keep selling grossly polluting diesel cars with the connivance of European governments.

“The automotive industry has captured its regulators, and European countries must now stand up for their citizens and stop this scandalous cover up. Only a recall of all harmful diesel cars will clean up our air and restore credibility in Europe’s legal system.”

'Blind eye'

The report goes on to reveal that 29 million diesel cars and vans on European roads are classified as 'dirty', in accordance to Euro 5 standards – which applied to all models sold from 1 January 2011 - including 4.3 million in the UK. These dirty vehicles are at least three times over the relevant legal emission limits. In fact, only one in four diesel vehicles registered since 2011 are compliant with these standards, T&E says.

France tops the list of countries with the largest amount of dirty diesel vehicles on the road, with 5.5 million models approved for sale by authorities, according to the report. Germany has the second-highest number of dirty vehicles on the roads (5.3 million), followed by the UK (4.3 million).

Image: France, Germany and the UK together account for more than 15 million 'dirty' vehicles on the road.

Archer added: "The true scandal of Dieselgate in Europe is national regulators turning a blind eye to the glaring evidence of test cheating with the sole purpose of protecting their national carmakers or their own business. This is killing tens of thousands of people annually.

“We need a European watchdog to stop EU member states protecting their national champions and to ensure the single market for vehicles operates in the interests of all citizens.”

Toxic legacy?

Whilst this report underlines the need for action to be taken to crack down on vehicle emissions in the wake of the VW scandal, there has, in other areas, been some signs of optimism from an environmental perspective.  

For one, the scandal has helped to dispel the myth that high-performance, low-emissions diesel cars are a viable technology fit for the global low-cabron transition. Instead, carmakers have seemingly upped the anti on electric cars hybrids, and consumers have become increasingly willing to buy them. 

In the 12 months since the emissions scandal, edie has reported on numerous examples of manufacturers and policymakers shifting their focus to electric vehicles (EVs) - from Nissan's 'EV of the future' to Tesla's enigmatic Model 3 launch, which generated $14.5bn in potential sales before anyone had actually seen or driven it.

edie timeline: One year on from the VW scandal...

Take a look through the timeline below to read all of the key automotive industry updates and announcements over the past 12 months.


Luke Nicholls & Alex Baldwin


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